The National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) is an entirely voluntary organisation keeping a visual watch along UK shores.
Each station assists in the protection and preservation of life at sea and around the UK coastline.
Currently 50 NCI stations are operational and manned by over 2000 volunteers keeping watch around the British Isles from Rossall Point in the North West, through Wales, to Wearside in the North East.
Whilst high technology and sophisticated systems are aids to improved safety, a computer cannot spot a distress flare, an overturned boat or a yachtsman or fisherman in trouble. Other vulnerable activities like diving, wind surfing and canoeing are made safer with visual surveillance.
NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. They are trained to deal with emergencies, offering a variety of skills and experience and full training by the NCI ensures that high standards are met.
Over 190,000 hours of organised coastal surveillance were completed in 2011 alone, all at no cost to the public. Funding is managed by a Board of Trustees with a constitution agreed by the Charity Commission and relies heavily on local support.